It’s just a month into 2014 and there is a lot going on in the world of edible insects right now. In the last half year we’ve seen several new companies developing to serve consumer products based on edible insects, including Exo, Bitty, and Six Foods joining the ranks of Chapul and Don Bugito. Our friends at World Ento have broken new ground completing their HACCP documentation - the first HACCP we are aware of in the United States for edible insects and a crucial piece of documentation for long term regulatory acceptance of their business model. A third incarnation of the Future Food Salon is planned in Austin, TX in just a few weeks, featuring almost all the big names in bugs, and we even have a panel discussion on edible insects at this year’s SXSW Interactive. Here at Tiny Farms we’ve been receiving a hugely positive response to our own current project - Open Bug Farm - where we are working to develop an open source bug farming kit to enable folks to start farming their own insects. With all this great stuff happening, we think it’s worth taking a minute to consider some of the most important players in this emerging industry, the advocates.
Sometimes new industries and markets are born as the brainchildren of existing industry powers. Large established entities undertake extensive (and expensive) marketing and advocacy programs to cultivate consumer acceptance. Other times new industries emerge from a more grassroots level, from individuals who simply care enough to build the future they want to see and live in. Here in the West, the emerging edible insects industry falls squarely in the second category. In addition to a few university backed projects and with moral support from the UNFAO, we have a small group of individuals and companies who strongly believe there’s a beneficial and profitable future in edible insects. We all know it’s a good idea, the hard part is convincing everyone else.
This is where advocates come in. On the one hand, every player in this space is an industry advocate. We all give interviews and write articles explaining the benefits of eating insects. The consumer products companies in particular have to work hard to carry the message to their target consumers. However for those of us developing for-profit businesses, we can only focus a limited amount of time and energy on advocacy as we also work to develop our products and those efforts usually have to focus on the realm of our own product offering. The industry advocates on the other hand are not so encumbered. Like self-appointed guardian angels they seem to be tirelessly available to answer journalists, provide tastings, speak to children's’ classes, and post witty comments on social media.
We are extremely lucky to be working in an ecosystem that includes a few passionate individuals who have taken up this cause and are doing their damnedest to see it succeed. Some, like David Gracer of Small Stock Foods and The Bug Chef David George Gordon have been working at this for years. Daniella Martin has cheerfully and eloquently espoused the benefits of insect eating along with some tasty recipes on her Girl Meets Bug blog, and will soon have a book on shelves explaining this whole phenomena to the lay person with, I am sure, plenty of friendly encouragement to try it out themselves. Meanwhile newer faces like Little Herds out of Austin Texas have jumped in with two feet. Little Herds, now the first 501c non-profit insect advocacy group, has been organizing tastings, recruiting chefs to experiment with bugs, presenting to kids and much more since they got their start.
These efforts are grassroots, non partisan, unentangled, and just plain awesome. The benefits to us businesses getting started in this space are generally intangible but also invaluable, and it’s important for us to keep in mind and support these advocates in whatever ways we can. Indeed, anyone who wants to see the edible insect industry grow and anyone who is even considering developing a business in this space owes a debt of gratitude to these fine folks.
Right now our friends at Little Herds are raising money for their 2014 endeavors to bring more bugs to more people. We love what they do, and we think that everyone should take a minute to read about their work and consider supporting their cause, even with just a few dollars. Check out their campaign on Start Something Good here http://bit.ly/1hyzPbS
This year is off to an exciting start, we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes from here!
Co-Founder, Tiny Farms